STEAM-y Storytime: Independence Day

Storytime at our library is on Wednesdays and this year the first storytime of July landed on July 3rd. We couldn’t let the week go by and not celebrate Independence Day. The trick was how to tie STEAM activities into the program. While I certainly could have focused on the art element of STEAM, I wanted to continue the success of the summer’s STEAMY-y Storytimes and include some of the other elements.

What is a librarian to do? Fireworks in a Glass, of course! But first…


141692454X-olivia2_zoomOlivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer (Athenuem Books for Young Readers, 2006)

While I find that the humor and subtle elements in some Olivia books go right over the head of preschoolers, this one seems to work well in the storytime setting. It tells the story of the lovable Olivia and her ideas about July 4th.


In between books we took the lead from Olivia. I distributed red, white and blue shower rings (Credit: Mel’s Desk) which we waved all around while we marched and sang around the children’s library. I even slipped in a learning moment and had the kids shaking their rings up high, down low, to the left and to the right.

Music: “This Land is Your Land” from Nikki Loney’s album You Are My Sunshine: Favorite Sing-Along Songs (broadcast on speakers via iPhone).

betsyrossThe charming book Betsy Ross by Becky White and Megan Lloyd (Holiday House, 2011) tells the story of the American flag with simple, rhyming text (including sound words like “snip, snip” and “drip, drip”) and illustrations created using cloth. The combination gives the story a warm feel. The author’s note about Ross’ contribution of the five-pointed star to the flag and the instructions for how to make a five-pointed star with one snip of the scissors are excellent additions.

Activity Stations:

IMG_0761Fireworks in a Glass

Materials:IMG_0731 Water (warm in a tall glass container like a vase)
Vegetable oil (in a small glass for mixing with the food coloring)
Blue and red food coloring
tray for all of the materials (optional)

Mix the food coloring into the oil in the small glass. Coloring will break up into small drops. Slowly add the oil mixture to the warm water. After about 30 seconds, the food coloring will separate from the oil which formed a layer on top of the water and float downwards, looking like blue and red fireworks.

What are the bags of cotton balls and beans for? I used them to talk about density (same volume, but different density) and why the oil, food coloring, and water act differently and create the fireworks effect.

Credit: So Tomorrow via ALSC blog

IMG_0732Fireworks painting

Black construction paper
plates of white, blue, and red washable paint
pipecleaner brushes
plastic table cover (optional)

To make the pipe cleaner brushes, take 3 pipe cleaners and bend them in half together. Twist the bent pipe cleaners 3 or 4 times t form the handle. Separate the untwisted ends and fold over so they are flat, forming a star when laid on a flat surface. Press the pipe cleaner paint brush in the paint and then press it on to the construction paper. For best results, paint the other additional colors over the first color but turn the brush clockwise slightly to offset the colors.

Credit: Juggling with Kids

Toilet Roll Firecracker



  • Toilet roll
  • Red, white, and blue themed scrapbook paper
  • Heavier weight paper cut into circles approx. 2″ to create the nose (I cut a triangle out of the circle to make it easier to form the pointed nose. Join edges after cutting the triangle out and it will create the point.)
  • Red, white, or blue ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Stapler

I prepped the scrapbook paper and the noses by cutting and IMG_0734measuring them.  I was sure to include a variety of colors. Kids and caregivers worked together to glue or tape the paper around the toilet roll, attach the nose, and then staple the ribbon on the bottom of the roll. Some kids chose to color their firecrackers with the crayons and markers I always provide.

Five Point Star

We followed the instructions from Betsy Ross to make five-pointed stars. With six folds in plain white paper (cut to 8 1/2″x10″) and one cut, a star is born!

This activity was the one many kids and adults went to last, but ended up staying with for quite awhile.  Kids liked seeing the paper folded smaller and smaller and then once cut, opened up to reveal a star! A pdf of the instructions is available from Holiday House.

Book images courtesy of: Holiday House and Junior Library Guild


STEAM-y Storytime 3: Dinosaurs

Dinosaur-Roar-1024  More than sixty people showed up today. We had a lot of fun! Dinosaur storytime is such a crowd-pleaser with the preschool set.

This storytime is similar to one I posted earlier this year.  The Dig Into Reading theme and my STEAM-y storytime summer schedule both called for more dinos, so I reused the storytime plan with some additions.

We read three great dinosaur books this week:Goldilocks and the 3 dinos

Dinosaur Roar! written by Paul Stickland and illustrated by Henrietta Stickland (Dutton Children’s Books, 1994)

Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner (Chronicle Books, 2001)

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012)

In between books, we talked about dinosaur skeletons, paleontologists, what dinosaurs ate, how we know Photo Jun 11, 1 59 00 PMabout dinosaurs, their size, and their habitat. I brought out a couple of dinosaur skeleton figures from this year’s cool summer program prizes as we talked. (I created digital images of dinosaur skeletons using these same figures and turned them into flashcards for the dinosaur dig activity station so kids could identify the dinosaurs they dug up by matching it with the card that had the same image and the dinosaur’s name.)

T-rex and Nancy PearlAt the last minute, my Nancy Pearl action figure came to the rescue! Along with my T-rex puppet, I used her to compare the sizes of people and some dinosaurs. T-rex broke one of her arms off at one point during a fierce storytime battle, but a brave preschooler attached her limbs back on and she is back at work championing all things library. Phew!

We also sang a couple of songs!

Feltboard: Dinosaur Song
(I change the color order based on how I place the dinosaurs on the board. We talk about the different dinosaur names and match the sets of three before we sing.)

1 red, 1 blue, 1 orange dinosaur,
1 green, 1 yellow, 1 white dinosaur,
1 pink, brown, 1 purple dinosaur,
9 little dinosaurs roar!dino felt board
Credit: SurLaLune

Action Song: Dino-Pokey
(Tune: “The Hokey Pokey”)

You put your claws in,
You take your claws out,
You put your claws in,
And you scratch ’em all about.
You do the dino pokey,
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!
Credit: SurLaLune

Dinosaur Activity Stations:

Photo Feb 21, 11 44 55 PMDino fossil dough

We made dinosaur fossils out of salt dough. I quickly made the recipe before work at home and brought in the large bowl of dough to storytime. I gave each little one a ball of dough to flatten and use to make impressions of toy dinosaur feet and anything else they could find that would make an interesting pattern. Many kids played at this station for quite awhile. Each child then took their shaped fossil home in a small baggie with easy baking instructions.

Dinosaur DigDinosaur Dig

I filled four dish tubs with local beach sand and then the teen storytime volunteer and I buried dinosaurs in each tub. Kids used brushes and spoons to gently move the sand and small rocks around to uncover the dinosaurs. The flashcards I created (mentioned above) were used to match the figures with a labeled card so the explorers could learn the name of the dinosaur they discovered in the sand. The distinct shapes of each skeleton made for great conversation during the matching.

Dinosaur Noodle Skeleton

Dino Noodle Skeleton imageThe younger kids in particular liked this activity. I provided a T-Rex skeleton template (from Busy Bee Kids Crafts) which kids glued onto a piece of black cardstock. The kids and parents then glued noodles (penne) along the lines of the template to create a skeleton. The little ones worked diligently to get all of the noodles lined up. I provided both small and regular size penne.

Photo credit: Busy Bee Kid Crafts

STEAM-y Storytime 2: Under the Sea, Matey!

Wow! STEAM-y Storytime 2 was part fabulous, part controlled chaos. With almost 70 kids and caregivers, we managed to read, sing, experiment, and create!

A storytime friend returned to the library to read this week. I provided him with a few pirate and sea books that he brought to life between songs on his guitar. This volunteer is a great addition and I love introducing storytellers to the library families.

Under the Sea books...

Lots of rhyming in this week’s books! All were kid-pleasers.

sheep on a ship

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Sheep on a Ship by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple (Houghton Mifflin, 1989).

Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Jill McElmurry (Harper Collins, 2012).

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008).

Under the Sea activities…

I was a little worried when I looked out on the crowd before me and explained what was happening at the three activity stations we were offering. There were a lot of kids! I quickly described the stations and how caregivers could help their little ones explore. Not to worry. With the help of great caregivers, the kids dove right in discovered new ideas and tools at the multiple stations. Storytime lasted longer than the usual hour, but I was happy to let kids experiment. Here is what we did for the latter part of storytime:

Sink and Float

sink float Sink and Float is a classic preschool activity, but it was a first for storytime at our library, perhaps because of the water that ended up all around the station! Clean was pretty easy though, thanks to plastic table covers.Photo Jun 05, 4 27 48 PM

I had four tubs of water with a variety of objects and a laminated sink-float chart alongside. Caregivers were instructed to help kids predict if each object would sink or float and why. They placed the object on the chart under sink or float based on their decision. Then they tested their prediction.

The best moment at this station was watching a little one’s face when we made an aluminum foil boat that floats and placed an object that sunk on top of it…and it floated. His mind was blown!

Squiggle Fish

This station was a hit! It allowed kids to do what they do best: create and explore across media. Using fish drawn on 1/4 page white cardstock and the Squiggle Fish app on an iPad, we turned over twenty-five fish into a digital sea swimming with creatures!

squiggle fish2

The trick with this app is having kids draw and color fish on the white paper and outline the fish with a thick black pen. I had kids write their names inside the black outline so we could easily identify the fish on-screen.

Once the fish were finished, I held the iPad over the drawings and the picture of the fish, minus the white background, was digitized and animated on screen. We had everything from a family of fish to an octopus. While the finished sea of creatures isn’t shareable (maybe in an update?), I took screenshots of different views of our sea and posted one on our library’s Facebook page for families to download.

Are you looking for other apps to integrate into storytime? Check out the field-tested apps for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary age kids pinned on Little eLit’s Pinterest boards. Each pin includes technical information and suggested storytime use.

Fish in the Sea

fish craft At the last minute I added this simple craft station, fortunately. This one was most popular with younger kids and allowed almost every kid to find something that captured their interest. I found the idea on Pinterest. The minimal materials made it affordable and easy to put together.

A sheet of cardstock folded on each of the short edges and down the middle was cut horizontally (to the side folds). Small fish were cut out of 1/8 page scrap construction paper and stapled on to the slats. I had several fish already cut out as samples, but kids and caregivers cut out many more. Some paper was cut in wavy lines making the scene look even more sea-like. This craft was perfect because it was self-explanatory and the teen volunteer and I could focus on the other two stations.

images: Macmillan, Nerdy Chicks Rule

STEAM-y Storytime 1: Things that Go! Go! Go!

Kids finish school towards the end of May here. In years past we have started our summer reading program the first week in June, leaving a gap. I have wondered if we lose kids this way, so this year we began the program the Monday after school gets out, turning the eight-week program into a ten-week extravaganza. So far so good.  More kids (and teens and adults) are registered and they are enthusiastic!

Another change, is better integration of the preschool storytime program that we offer every week of the year into the summer program. Instead of the habitual storytime that happens every week, I want them to be special and relevant and engaging and the Heavy Equipment Show and Tellhappenin’ place to be! Storytimes are generally well-attended, and during the summer its economical to use the well-established storytime venue to provide summer-related programming especially for young kids instead of adding programs to a very full schedule  that includes events for kids, teens, and adults.

As mentioned in previous posts, I decided to develop a series of STEAM-y Storytimes for June and July (our summer program ends August 3rd) to draw attention to storytime and to try highlighting valuable STEAM (STEM + Art) elements in the storytime setting. The Dig Into Reading theme we adopted for this year allows me to nicely connect storytime and the overall program.

Stories that go…

To go along with the Heavy Equipment Show and Tell we were hosting on the weekend, this week’s storytime was all about things that go. But first, I started storytime with the Rhyme Cube again. Kids really like the idea of choosing songs, and of course, the rhyming songs are great for kids’ phonological awareness!Photo Mar 08, 10 41 51 AM

To introduce the theme of the day, I brought out my portable flannelboard which was already set up with “things that go,” including the settings for each. The kids immediately called out that things weren’t as they should be. I had the things that go all mixed up! A boat was pulling a dogsled, a train in the clouds, and so forth. Together, we got them all sorted out in no time at all. Time for stories! Find the templates here ThingsThatGo1 and ThingsThatGo2.

We read just two books this week, since we were so busy giggling and talking about the two I selected. Two may not seem like very much, but I don’t set an absolute number of books to get don't let the pigeonthrough during storytime.  Instead I focus on how we read the books. Some weeks we read three or even four, and some we read less.

We were recently gifted a big book version of Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Hyperion Books for Children, 2003). It amazes me just how much kids enjoy this story, even if they have heard it a hundred times! With the large format pages, simple but expressive illustrations, and the interactive story, it’s ideal for reading together as a group. Thanks, Mo Willems! And if you haven’t seen the related app, Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App, check it out.

Before the next story, it was time to jump up and get our legs going! When I unfurled this traffic light on the flannelboard, the kids pointed out that it was like the single traffic light in town! Despite the rarity of traffic signals, kids still knew what to do when we marched our way through this action rhyme.

Green Says Go!Photo Mar 08, 10 42 23 AM

Green Says, “Go!” (march fast in place)
Go! Go! Go!
Yellow says, “Slow.” (march slow)
Slow… slow… slow…
And Red says, “Stop!” (freeze stop)
GO! GO! GO! (march fast)
Slow… slow… slow (march slow)
STOP!!! (stop)

Credit: Sturdy for Common Things

Our last story was David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike (Blue Sky Press, 2002). As Duck rides a bike past the other farm animals they lots to say and think about Duck’s peculiar behavior. The repetitive text and easy duck on a biketo identify animals are a treat for kids, as is the second to last page which features all of the animals happily riding bikes unbeknownst to the child owners inside the farm house.

The STEAM-y Storytime format includes two or three activity stations after the traditional story segment. For this week, we included three stations and the average sized crowd moved from one to the other smoothly. Most children and their caregivers tried out each station. I didn’t set a time at each station, but designed the time as free exploration. With a teen volunteer on hand, the format worked very well.

Things That Go Activity Stations:

Photo May 28, 2 51 58 PMPaper Airplanes

I set up an area in the children’s library that was dedicated to paper airplane building. We have several Photo May 28, 2 54 15 PMpaper airplane design books including the Paper Airplanes series by Christopher Harbo (Capstone Press, 2011) which are written for various age levels, so I displayed those at the station along with paper in a variety of weights and colors. Paper clips, tape, and fasteners were also on hand so kids could experiment with weight distribution as they tested their planes.

Once their planes were engineered, kids had a chance to see how they flew. A long area between stacks offered a great spot to lay tape at various intervals so kids could measure how far their designs could fly. There was even a contest or two!

Car Color MatchingCar Color Matching Station 

Many of the younger kids were immediately attracted to the car color matching station. I placed a basket of toy cars and trucks in the middle of the table with colored construction paper in a circle around it. Kids quickly started placing cars on the sheets based on their body color. I encouraged caregivers to help the little ones count the matching vehicles and also find other ways of matching the cars based on the color of their wheels, windows, and racing numbers, for example.

Did kids play with the cars after they matched them? Of course!

Town CollagePhoto Mar 08, 10 52 24 AM

The art station was all about creating a collage which I found over at Sturdy for Common Things. For this station, I set out large pieces of blue construction paper for the backdrop along with wavy black paper strips to represent a curvy road. Kids used the magazine scraps, other construction paper, and cotton balls to create buildings, trees and clouds/fog. I cut out small cars and glued them to popsicle sticks so kids could drive them on their newly crafted roads, turning their artwork into something interactive.

Another station idea…

At other “Things That Go” storytimes, I have also provided materials to make toy cars for racing on a race track made out of blue tape on the carpeted floor. Creating the cars and racing them offered great DSC02389opportunities for language development and using their budding narrative and social skills as kids raced around the track together.

toilet rolls
brass fasteners
black paper circles
markers or crayons
any other items for decorating the cars

Image Credits: Neat Solutions, Little Big Shots

Summer Reading Program 2013: part 2

Phew! Planning season seems to have come and gone while I wasn’t looking. School is finished in just two weeks and the summer reading program begins right after Memorial Day. I have the STEAM-y Storytime line-up ready to go and posted for all to see. While some of the multiple stations that I am cooking up for each week are still in the works, I thought I’d share the themes. Maybe you even have a suggestion or two! I’ll post the details as we do the programs.

Our library offers two storytimes each week, year round. I plan and lead both of them most of the time (we have two community members who visit for the preschool storytime also).  One is a preschool storytime and the other is a mostly toddler group. For the summer, we’ll be focusing on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) in the preschool program. Since we are using the Dig Into Reading theme, many of the storytime themes fit nicely. I even have a teen volunteer this year excited to help with the storytime activities. The preschoolers will love him!

This summer’s storytime themes:

Things That Go! I have used a vehicle related theme for storytime before, but not for awhile. It is a hit with everyone! There are lots of great books to read on vehicles, bikes, and anything that moves. We’ll make cars for a race track, have a car matching station, and make paper airplanes.

This one will go nicely with the Heavy Equipment Show and Tell we have planned for the beginning of the summer program. We’ll be closing off the side street near the library so four construction vehicles can park where families can get a closer look. A new excavator owned by the city a nd a dump truck will be among the vehicles on display. We’ll hand out cards with stats for each vehicle to provide a kind of self-guided tour since we’ll only have a couple of staff and volunteers on hand. It will also be a great time to sign up families who haven’t had a chance to get involved.

Under the Sea, Matey! We are a coastal community so an ocean theme, with a few pirates thrown in, is a perfect fit. We’ll include a sink or float experiment station among other fun activities. This is a great time to share Mango Languages, a digital language learning tool, with families since our library provides free access to the site and app. Mango offers pirate in their list of languages to learn and it is a kid favorite.

We All Dig Dinosaurs! What schedule of storytimes would be complete without dinosaurs? I purchased some small plastic dinosaur skeletons for reading prizes this year as well as a handful to use in an excavation station. We also took the opportunity to dig up some new-to-us dino books for the collection. What do you have planned?

Plants: How Does Your Garden Grow? In June, we’ll still be planting here and the greening of Alaska will be just getting underway.  Gardens are a big part of many families’ summertime  activities, so we’ll celebrate at storytime with matching games and fruit and vegetable crafts.

Let’s Mix It Up With Colors! I’ve been looking forward to using some of the great suggestions from Amy Koester’s Color Science for Preschoolers ALSC blog post. I thought I would add it to the schedule and get kids mixing, painting, and experimenting!

Independence Day! Preschool storytime will happen on July 3rd this year, so we’ll be celebrating the national holiday a day early. Last Fall, I heard about a great picture book ideal for sharing at storytime, and I’ll use it this year. The title? Betsy Ross by Becky White and Megan Lloyd (Holiday House, 2011). Activities for this one are still being cultured in the petri dish of storytime planning….

Digging Up Trouble With Trickster Tales Trickster tales are some of my favorite books to read aloud. When done respectfully, the stories shared from other cultures can be a great teaching opportunity. Alaska has many such tales and we’ll be including some of them in this storytime. Activities still in the works, so stay tuned!

Creepy Crawly Bugs! Local naturalists will be bringing local downed Spruce logs for scientific exploration during this storytime.  We’ll investigate, deconstruct, and identify the creepy crawlies inside. Bringing the outdoors in will be a blast!

Under Construction! We sponsor a LEGO® contest every summer, and this year will be no different. We’ll even bring LEGO®s to storytime to let kids build towers, castles, bridges, and more while they also build their literacy skills! It is amazing what narrative skills and vocabulary can be developed while playing with these building blocks.

What’s Under Our Feet? Rocks and Caves Several years ago, I stumbled on a great layers earthearth activity in a Montessori book. (I’m still looking for that book….) It is a play doh model of the Earth and all of its layers wrapped inside. Once the ball is made with the layers inside, the ball is cut down the middle and each layer is visible. My kids loved it and I know my young friends at the library will too!